I am a socio-cultural anthropologist interested in aging and the lifecourse and the social lives and lived experiences older adults broadly. My specific interests include later life generativity, sociality, community engagement, maintaining personhood in later life and the impact of volunteering in the lives of older adults. I am a PhD Candidate in Anthropology at Wayne State University, where I am currently transitioning from completing my fieldwork to writing my dissertation entitled “Creating Cultural and Personal Value Across Later Life: Pursuing Generativity and Continuity through Volunteering”. I am also a Graduate Teaching Assistant in the Department of Anthropology at Wayne State University, where I have taught for several years and, concurrently, I am a Predoctoral Trainee at The Institute of Gerontology at Wayne State University.
What made you interested in the study of aging and/or the life course?
I became interested in the study of aging and the lifecourse when I began volunteering in a local house museum when I was finishing up my B.A. in Anthropology. I then began a Master’s program at Wayne State University, with the intent of following the Archeology and Museum Studies Tract. During this time, I became increasing fascinated by the social group of older volunteers that worked with this museum. I began to realize that these volunteers created a community of belonging for themselves and used their status as community volunteers to create a position for themselves as contributors to their community. I was fortunate enough to be in an anthropology department that had some excellent faculty in the area of aging research. It was through some great mentoring by Dr. Sherri Briller that I realized that my true research interest was aging and the life course.
What is an article, book, or other work that has made an impact on how you think about aging and your research?
When I first mentioned my interested in aging research, one of my mentors introduced me to the classic ethnography, “Number our Days,” by Barbara Myerhoff. I had never really read an ethnography of aging before, but I was struck by the insight into aging and the way a story of aging in the community could be shared with a broader public. Many years down the line, I have come to admire the works of Maria Vesperi, Caitrin Lynch, Elana Buch, Jessica Robbins, and many, many others.
What do you do when you are not doing aging/life course research?
I volunteer quite a bit in my community with various nonprofits and city sponsored community events. I also enjoy spending time at our cabin, located on 40 wooded acres in northwestern Michigan, near Traverse City. Additionally, I find the physicality and challenge of classic car restoration relaxing. The COVID pandemic has allowed me the opportunity to mostly complete my latest project — a 1956 Ford Thunderbird.
Do you have a recent publication so that our members can learn more about your work?
Shay, Kimberly. (2021) “Book Review: Aging Nationally in Contemporary Poland: Memory, Kinship and Personhood.” Anthropology & Aging 42, no. 1 (2021): 177-179.
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